Saturday, November 25, 2006

Goodbye Death Valley

We had a very nice day today. C flew us all over to Death Valley in his plane. We woke up later than we had planned, but we were not in any hurry. After driving to the airport, getting a ride to the hanger, and waiting around while Daddy did the pre-flight check, we got off the ground about 11am. This time we had headsets for the kids, so they got in on the conversation, and looked tres chic in the latest aero fashion.

The ride over was very pleasant, only about an hour long and very smooth. I sat up front with our pilot and he let me touch his yoke! Ahem. I mean I got to fly the plane a little. Fun! When we landed at Furnace Creek, we parked the plane and took a walk over to the ranch, about a half mile. Good thing it was not summer or it would have been a very hot walk. We could have gotten a shuttle, but we wanted the exercise. A was very hungry, but not so starving she passed up a chance to explore a wash. We had fun looking at the rocks and I found a bright orange feather with a black tip for E.

The walk to find the ranch area with the restaurants took us past the golf course, campgrounds and through all these huge palm trees. We choose to eat lunch at the Forty Niner Cafe, which was very nice. Good service and yummy food. After we had refilled our bellies, we browsed the general store for souvenirs. I got a Death Valley magnet and A picked out a couple of little trinkets. E kept showing me things she wanted to save up for and buy "when we come back here". That was a minor shock from the girl who usually spends every cent she has the moment she gets it in her hot little hands. I guess we will have to go back...

With the shopping behind us, we headed over to the Borax Museum, which was in a very old wooden building. The inside was small and, other than some cool borate minerals, did not hold the girls interest. Outside in back was more interesting. They had all kinds of old rusty metal machinery and wagon wheels and train locomotives and other contraptions. Most of it was used somehow in the mining and transport of borax or gold in the old days. Pretty neat.

After that, we walked back to the visitors center to check it out on our way out. We had to get flying back before it got too late or we would end up flying in the dark. We looked around quickly and asked a ranger about the feather I found. It probably belonged to a Flicker, a type of woodpecker. Got some maps and pamphlets to look at, E picked more stuff to come back to buy in the gift shop, and we arranged for a ride the rest of the way to the airstrip.

E was being ornery and refused to get in the airplane because she said her ears hurt on the way over. She said she would wait for a taxi! Somehow, we got her to agree to get in, probably C promising to fly lower and the fact that she got offered the front seat! A was only too pleased to have me sit with her in the back, until she lost one of her little souvenirs, an onyx animal carving, down a crack behind her seat. She pouted the whole way home, but did manage to enjoy the first ten minutes looking out the window while C circled and climbed in order to get over the mountains. E, on the other hand, had a blast up front with Daddy. She flew for a good 20 minutes. That's her, looking all pilot-like, in the picture to the left.

Before we began our descent, I opened and then closed tightly, A's water bottle and told her to keep an eye on it. We watched it collapse in as we went down in altitude . Here she is showing me how much it got squished after we landed. That perked her up a bit, but when we got back to the hanger and could not find her animal carving, she was a very sad girl. She is over it now, but it was a tough spot for her to get through. She did say that the pewter rattlesnake that she still has represents Death Valley better than the seal carving she lost, so she is looking on the bright side!

In one of the pamphlets I got at the visitors center, I read that some of the gold rush 49-ers used Death Valley as a short cut to California. It was not a good shortcut, and one of the miners died there. As the rest of the party was leaving, one reportedly turned back and said, "Goodbye, death valley" and the name stuck. I always wondered why it was called that. Anyway, it is a pretty interesting place, despite the name. It was nice to be able to make a quick day trip like this with the plane. Saved us many hours in the car, for sure, and C was thrilled to have us fly somewhere with him. But it would be good to go back sometime to explore some more of the historical and geological attractions.

I'll leave you with a shot from the air of the Furnace Creek area:


sissi said...

You guys have your plane! This is awesome, lucky you!:)

sissi said...

(own plane), sorry.